Diabetes is not easy and it doesn’t go away. It’s something we have to deal with every day, even when we really don’t want to, and it can be both physically and mentally draining.
So how do we set ourselves up for long-term success?
We need plans and tools that won’t drain us mentally and take over every second of our lives, but still makes us feel successful when it come to our diabetes management.
It’s a tough nut to crack, so I’ve enrolled Dr. Mark Heyman from the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health to help us out. He’s a diabetes psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator, and someone I highly respect.
This is his 5-step approach to setting yourself up for long-term success with diabetes.
Identify your strengths (and your weaknesses)
If you know what your strengths and weaknesses are in your diabetes management, you can assess what you need to keep doing and what you need to change to be successful in the future.
While this may sound like an obvious step, identifying strengths and weaknesses in a concrete way is not always easy. Take a couple of days and observe your diabetes management. Are there certain tasks that you do automatically, and others that you put off? Are there certain times of the day where your blood sugars are in range and other times when keeping them in range is more challenging?
Paying attention to these things can give you clues about your strengths with diabetes, and show you where you still have some work to do.
Take small steps
If you are running a marathon and you sprint the first mile, it will be a lot more difficult to make it to the finish line. Your diabetes goals are no different. Diabetes takes a lot of hard work and sometimes everything can seem overwhelming and you may not even know where to start.
Instead of taking on a big task all at once, breaking it down into small steps can help you in the long run. This will help you get some small wins under your belt and build the confidence and stamina you need to keep moving forward.
For example, telling yourself you want to reduce your A1C from 9% to 7% may sound like a Herculean task. However, if that is your goal, identify some small, specific tasks you can do that can get you closer to achieving this goal. For example, you can check your blood sugar at least 4 times a day and count carbohydrates at every meal and take the right amount of insulin to your carbs.
Taking small steps helps you see your progress and helps make achieving big goals seem a lot more doable.
Make a plan to get back on track (before you get off)
Let’s be honest, it’s really hard to stay on track with diabetes management all the time. If you’re like most people, you will fall off track with diabetes at some point – this is totally normal. One of the keys to staying on track in the long-term is having a plan to get up as soon as you fall. That way you’ll have the confidence you need to get going again without delay.
Each person’s plan will look different, so find one that works for you, but the important thing is that you have a plan, and stick to it.
Surround yourself with support
Diabetes is never a do-it-yourself condition, and setting yourself up for long-term success includes getting support from other people. Your friends and family can give you support and encouragement and help keep your spirits up if things get tough. They can also help remind you that there’s more to your life than diabetes.
Getting support from other people with diabetes can also a key to success in the long run. Other people with diabetes can help you problem-solve challenging situations, be there to listen when you need to vent to someone who ‘gets’ it, and remind you that you are not alone with diabetes.
And don’t forget, support is a two-way street. Surrounding yourself with support also lets you support others, setting them up for success too!
Remember that diabetes doesn’t define you
Managing diabetes is hard work and sometimes can feel overwhelming. It can be easy to forget that you are more than your diabetes. Diabetes may be part of your life, but it doesn’t have to define your life.
Don’t lose sight of the things in your life that you want to define you, like your relationships, passions, and hobbies, so that you can live the life you want to live. Diabetes may be along for your ride, but always remember that you are in the driver’s seat!
Setting yourself up for long-term success with diabetes doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a process that takes some planning, perspective and a lot of patience. If you do some work upfront, you’ll be prepared for any challenges that are ahead.
Dr. Mark Heyman is a diabetes psychologist and a Certified Diabetes Educator. He is the Director of One Drop | Experts, a mobile diabetes coaching program and the Founder and Director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health. Mark provides education and evidence-based clinical treatment to people with diabetes.
Mark received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and completed his psychology internship at the UCSD School of Medicine. He holds an appointment as Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSD. Mark lives in San Diego with his wife Gayle. He has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1999.
Medical Disclaimer: All information provided on TheFitBlog is based on my own and our expert’s personal experience. We are not medical professionals and no adjustments to care should be done without consulting your medical team. If you are new to exercise, haven’t exercised in a while, and/or haven’t seen your medical team in the last 3 months, it is advised to do so before engaging in any kind of physical activity. You must not rely on the information on TheFitBlog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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